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Discrimination is defined by policy as the process of illegally differentiating between people on the basis of group membership rather than individual merit. Systemic discrimination may occur when unequal treatment results from neutral institutional practices that continue the effect of past discrimination. Individual discrimination may result when a person is subjected to unequal treatment on the basis of race, religion, color, sex, age (40 and older), national origin or ancestry, genetic information, disability, veteran status, pregnancy or marital status, parental status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

Examples of discrimination include giving staff unequal access to University programs based on their race (or other protected category), excluding a student from joining a University organization based on the student’s sexual orientation or national origin (or other protected category), not hiring someone because of that person’s perceived age or religion (or other protected category), or failing to make reasonable accommodations for a student or employee with a disability.

Harassment is defined by policy as unwelcomed conduct towards another person or identifiable group of persons based on a protected class status that is so severe, pervasive, or objectively offensive that it has the purpose or effect of:

  1. Creating an intimidating or hostile educational environment, work environment or environment for participation in a University program or activity;
  2. Unreasonably interfering with a person's educational environment, work environment or environment for participation in a University program or activity; or
  3. Unreasonably affecting a person's educational or work opportunities or participation in a University program or activity.

Examples may include name calling, teasing, or making other derogatory remarks based on a person’s real or perceived gender identity (or other protected category); repeatedly sending unwelcome e-mails, text messages, or photos of a sexual nature; or a display of racially charged images, such as nooses and Confederate flags.

The University is committed to assuring that all people may exercise the constitutionally protected rights of free expression, speech, assembly and worship. Some acts of hate or bias may not violate law or policy and may, in fact, be protected expressions of speech. Protecting freedom of expression, including controversial speech, and sometimes even offensive or hurtful words, is vital to our commitment to teaching and learning. While our policies do not prohibit such speech, the University encourages all members of the community to engage in respectful dialogue and to observe the University Handbook.

A hate crime is any criminal act or attempted criminal act directed against a person(s), public agency or private institution based on the victim's actual or perceived race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or gender or because the agency or institution is identified or associated with a person or group of an identifiable race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or gender. A hate crime includes an act that results in injury, however slight; a verbal threat of violence that apparently can be carried out; an act that results in property damage; and property damage or other criminal act(s) directed against a public or private agency.

Examples of a hate crime could include verbal or written threats of violence directed at someone because of their perceived sexual orientation, Anti-Semitic or Islamaphobic graffiti spray painted on an office door, or a physical assault based on the race or national origin of the individual targeted.

Retaliation is any overt or covert act of reprisal, interference, restraint, penalty, Discrimination, intimidation, or Harassment against any person or group for reporting or complaining of Discrimination and/or Harassment, assisting or participating in the investigation of a complaint of Discrimination and/or Harassment, or enforcing University policies with respect to Discrimination and/or Harassment.

Consent/Consensual is defined as an affirmative indication by words and/or actions of a voluntary agreement to engage in the particular sexual act or conduct in question. Consent for one sexual act or conduct does not constitute consent to all sexual acts or conduct. Consent can be withdrawn at any time, and once withdrawal of consent has been expressed, sexual activity must cease. Consent cannot be obtained through the use of force, threat, intimidation, or coercion. Silence or absence of resistance on the part of an individual does not constitute their consent. Consent cannot be given by someone who is incapacitated due to consuming drugs or alcohol or for any other reason (including but not limited to being unconscious, asleep, or otherwise unaware that sexual activity is occurring).

The voluntary nature of Consent will be subject to heightened scrutiny in circumstances where someone who has power or authority over another person engages in a sexual relationship with that person. See the Amorous Relationship Policy for more information.

Incapacitated/Incapacitation is a state where someone cannot make rational or reasonable decisions because they lack the capacity to give knowing consent (e.g., to understand the “who, what, when, where, why, or how” of their sexual interaction). While incapacitation may result from the use of alcohol and/or drugs, incapacitation is a state beyond drunkenness or intoxication.

Incapacitation may also exist because of a physical, mental, or developmental disability. The question of incapacitation will be examined objectively from the perspective of the Respondent i.e. whether a reasonable, sober person in place of the Respondent should have known the condition of the Complainant based on the apparent indications of incapacitation, which may include, but are not limited to, acting confused or incoherent, difficulty walking or speaking, and/or vomiting.

For questions about definitions or reporting an incident, please contact Institutional Equity at or call 812-464-1703.